I’m in Portland at the moment where Halloween season is in full swing. Back when I lived in the city, I tried and failed to get someone to go to Fright Town with me. It was practically an annual tradition. “Hello, family member and/or friend. Would you like to go to the Pacific Northwest’s finest annual Halloween extravaganza with me?” “No, that place is probably swarming with obnoxious teenagers” or “it’s too expensive” were the replies I typically received.
My girlfriend relented last night and we fought through the crowds at the Blazers’ home opener to get down there.
Fright Town is an annual Halloween event in the basement of the Memorial Coliseum that features a series of haunted houses and people running around in elaborate monster costumes (like the one below, who was eager to dance with anyone and everyone). The highlight is a Baron Von Ghoolo’s, an Addam’s Family-style museum/freak show.
BVG’s favors cheeky humor over outright scares so guests here will find stuffed “were-pugs” and clowns instead of rampaging witches and zombies. Gentrification and problems with affordable housing are huge in Portland right now but it was still surprising to see a section of BVG’s devoted to such a heavy topic.
In one room, a guy dressed as vaudeville barker screams things at guests like “SOON THIS TOWN WILL BE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN SAN FRANCISCO!” and “THERE WILL ARTISINAL COFFEE SHOPS IN EVERY HOUSE, AS MANDATED BY LAW!” Honestly, I found him about 1,000% scarier than the ghouls over in the Cannibal Cannery, the more conventional haunted house across from the museum. The crew even added a snarky banner to the room that thanked “The Brownstein and Armisen Alliance” for their sponsorship.
I don’t think it’s fair to place all the blame at the feet of the duo behind Portlandia. Nobody moves across the country because of a sketch comedy show. Nevertheless, with each passing year, Portland becomes less and less the town of my youth and “Yet Another Overpriced American Metropolis.” As so many others have noted about a million times over the past five years, the freaks and artists are all moving on to different climes to repeat this whole process all over again. Every other article in The Portland Mercury is devoted to the topic and last week’s cover story in WW hit the nail on the head pretty well.
What’s the next American city to get bit by the gentrification zombie? My money’s on Fort Collins.
Is Jurassic World a perfect movie? Not by a long shot but I haven’t had that much fun in a movie theater since I saw….uhhhh….OK, Mad Max: Fury Road last month. I loved every totally ridiculous fan-servicing second of this film (expect for one incredibly cruel death scene that made absolutely no sense).
[Don’t read the rest of this post if you haven’t seen JW and/or care about spoilers. Yes, I’m about to write several hundred words about a dinosaur movie.]
1. This is the film that The Lost World should have been and the payoff I’ve been waiting to witness since I read Jurassic Park back in the eighth grade. It offers a fully functioning theme park filled with 22K thousand tourists for the dinos to tear to pieces instead of a handful of scientists and hunters. It presents a “what would happen if Disney World contained living dinos and everything went to hell in a single day” scenario that was amazingly fun to watch on screen. I started laughing like a loon when the petradons tear apart the park’s Main Street. The shot of an overly ambitious one trying to cart off a baby triceratops from the petting zoo was great. I just wish there had been further bits featuring them running amok in the gift shops and the Margaritaville.
2. Anybody who knows is aware that I’m completely fascinated by theme parks and the film offers so many great little barbs about the industry. The horrible celeb in-ride instructional videos (great to see Jimmy Fallon show up in one during the “hamster ball” scene), the indifferent/bored/underpaid teenagers given too much responsibility on the rides, the cynical corporate tie-ins all over the place, etc.
I wound up in a discussion on Facebook earlier this week that consisted of various people discussing the merits of The Goonies versus Stand By Me. Both movies were filmed in the ’80s and focused on foul-mouthed Oregon kids going off on adventures. They also, coincidentally, featured anecdotes about large groups of people throwing up all over themselves (Chunk’s theater story and Gordy’s story about Lardass Hogan, respectively).
Despite that puke joke, I’ve probably seen The Goonies more than other film. I grew up in Portland and spent a lot of time out on the Oregon coast as a kid so there’s that. It, much like Stand By Me, presented kids as they often are: thoughtful and intelligent beyond their years, fearful of and powerless against the complexities of the adult world and as foul-mouthed as sailors. Stand By Me is easily the better of the two films but it’s not very much fun to watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
But there’s a lot of stuff in The Goonies that really makes me cringe, Sloth being the prime example. I’m not sure why he needs to be in the film and his character is handled incredibly poorly (“you smell like fish heads!”). Can you imagine a scene about a developmentally disabled guy getting chained up in a cellar landing in a kid’s flick these days?
Nevertheless, much like Stand By Me, The Goonies is also surprisingly deep for a movie about and starring children. It deals with themes of loss, gentrification, class warfare, how people become embittered, etc. The scene in the well is worthy of any much more mature drama. Fantastic and downright moving even nowadays, so says me. “This was my dream, my wish and it didn’t come true. So I’m taking it back. I’m taking them all back.” That’s one of the best lines to come out of Hollywood in the ’80s. Put it up on the pedestal alongside “No, I am your father” and “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.’
In a nutshell, that’s why I still watch the movie every autumn when the leaves start turning orange and the seasonal gloom starts smearing itself all over the northern hemisphere. It’s also why I once hosted a show on KWVA, the University of Oregon’s campus radio station, that included a segment every week about the cancelled sequel when rumors were circulating in early ’00s (which always concluded with me hitting the play button on Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”). And why I once “broke into” the house in Astoria while it was being remodeled with two guys that had driven all the way from Kansas to see the place with their own eyes. And why I actually attended a 20th anniversary celebration in Astoria that included full grown adults doing “The Truffle Shuffle” alongside Jeff Cohen (I opted out).
The movie turns 30 years old this Monday, June 7th, and there will be another celebration in Astoria honoring it. I won’t be there but I will be watching the following. It seems like an anniversary that I should acknowledge in one way or another even from all the way over here in the Netherlands.
If you live in the Netherlands and hail from anywhere outside the European Union or Turkey, you’re likely familiar with the term “inburgering.” If you plan to stay here for a while, it’s a word that will cause you a substantial amount of grief….if it hasn’t already.
There are many blog post and articles floating around on the internet regarding the notorious Dutch immigration exam and how difficult it can be to pass it. My goal with this one is to take a look at the exam’s history and the why it should be either radically altered or phased out entirely.
But first, let’s take a quick look at the wheres, whens, whys and hows behind the birth of inburgering.
The test dates back to the mid 2000s. It was drafted by a Dutch politician named Rita Verdonk. At the time, she served as the Minister for Integration and Immigration. It will probably come as no surprise that she also founded a right-wing political party called “Proud of the Netherlands” in 2007. Verdonk was what you might call “controversial” during her years in public office. She butted heads with everybody from various members of her own party to Mark Rutte, the current Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Here’s a photo of Ms. Verdonk. I bet she’s a lot of fun at parties and has a wonderful singing voice.
Never a fan of immigrants, Verdonk devoted a substantial chunk of her career to drafting policies designed to make their lives in the Netherlands difficult. Up until then, the country’s immigration policies were, admittedly, a little too relaxed. Verdonk quickly went about changing all of that. Among other things, she drafted propositions that would have substantially altered marital requirements for immigrants (but they were shot down). In one bizarre incident during her days as a minister, she went after 26,000 asylum seekers that had been living in the country for over five years. Rather than grant them amnesty since they had arrived prior to the implementation of a new law, she chose to deal with each case on an individual basis, creating a gigantic bureaucratic nightmare for both them and her staff.
But the crown jewel during her time as minister was the inburgeren exam, the centerpiece of what is now known as “The Dutch Law on Integration.” Verdonk rolled out her proposal in the wake of the high-profile assassinations of filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn. Both had drawn massive amounts of media attention for their controversial stances on Muslims living in the Netherlands. Their murders ignited a wave of anti-Islamic hysteria and xenophobia in the country in the early and mid 2000s, which made Verdonk’s work pretty easy. Despite immense criticism in the national press, and plenty of skepticism from politicians all over the country, her proposal was approved by Parliament in 2006. The exam became a requirement for immigrants in early 2007.
I went to Portugal in May. It’s a magical place, as they say, and one of the most photogenic countries I’ve ever visited. During the trip, I took a bunch of photos. I “artsied” some of them up.
Here they are. Feel free to click on any or all of them for a closer look.
Quartier Putain is just one of the many examples of how Amsterdam is trying to essentially erase its status as Europe’s Sin City. Recent city initiatives like Project 1012 have shuttered several of its iconic prostitute windows and continue to lead to the closure of several “coffee shops.” De Wallen, the area better known as the Red Light District, is quickly becoming more associated with quirky record shops than weed and sleaze.
There’s even maps available these days that guide tourists to De Wallen’s more family-friendly businesses and away from those that made the district world famous. Residents seem divided when it comes to the changing face of their neighborhood. After years of putting up with poorly behaved visitors, drug addicts and organized crime, many are welcoming the shift with open arms. Others, meanwhile, lament the changes and fret that De Wallen is becoming as gentrified, overpriced and downright banal as a million other districts across Europe.
I visited Quartier Putain a few weeks ago. It’s a great little place smack dab in the heart of the Red Light; just across the street from the Oude Kerk. Their coffee is great, the atmosphere is great and their jukebox is, you guessed it, great. Still, I’m conflicted when it comes to supporting the business. Should I frequent a place that, for better or worse, is contributing to the whitewashing of one of the world’s most notorious locales?
Have a look at the photo above. Just beyond the right side of the frame, a few feet from the gentleman with the cane, there’s a row of Red Light windows. When I arrived, a group of 20-somethings were sitting at the tables outside staring at their iPhones while ignoring the ladies nearby (who were also killing time between customers by looking at their own smartphones).
It was a scene that perfectly encapsulated what’s happening with the district. Alas, I didn’t think to take a photo until it was too late.
The times they are a-changin’. And fast.